In the service of state and agriculture
Howell, Michael Francis
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By evaluating the activities of the Agricultural Association in Bavaria from 1871 to 1895, one finds that the organization, which functioned in part as an arm of the Bavarian state bureaucracy, played an unsuspecting role in the politicization of that state’s peasant classes. Specifically, because the Agricultural Association did very little to assist Bavaria’s large population of peasant farmers during a time of significant economic difficulties, it inadvertently pushed this group to seek solutions to its problems through more overt political means. Granted, the Bavarian government, which was the Association’s greatest patron, did not help the organization very much, with government leaders often ignoring the Association almost as much as they ignored Bavaria’s agricultural sector. In light of the government’s reticence, the Association did not however push the government to seriously address those economic issues that the peasantry increasingly faced after Germany’s unification. Consequently, by doing almost nothing to help the peasantry for nearly two and a half decades, and by also remaining closely associated with a liberal cabinet and bureaucracy that was often seen as collaborating with the Prussian state, the Association unwittingly helped to keep alive within the peasantry a political awakening first experienced at the time of Germany’s unification, and which awoke again with the apparent threat of economic ruin in the early 1890s. Similar developments in other parts of Germany suggest that these events were not isolated to Bavaria. Given that most of Germany’s state governments worked together with similar agricultural associations, the example of the Agricultural Association in Bavaria suggests that the individual state bureaucracies of Imperial Germany played a crucial yet inadvertent role in the politicization of Germany’s peasant agricultural producers at the end of the nineteenth century.